Are Caucuses Undemocratic?

As four states prepare to hold Republican caucus votes in the next week, The New York Times would like to remind you that the entire caucus system is a terrible way to elect a candidate. 

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As four states prepare to hold Republican caucus votes in the next week, The New York Times would like to remind you that the caucus system is a terrible way to elect a candidate. You may have already forgotten who won the all-important Iowa caucus last month, but that's okay, because we actually don't know who won ... and probably never will. Both Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney have claimed victory at different times, not neither have solid footing to the claim.. More than 100 precincts reported their (hand-written and hand-counted) vote totals incorrectly and eight never turned in any paperwork at all — and that's actually record for the fewest non-presenters.

On Saturday, both Nevada and Maine will begin their caucus procedures and neither one will look anything like Iowa. Each local municipality within each state gets to set their own rules for caucus voting, which is simply a party procedure and is not overseen by any outside group. There are no voting machine, no election monitors, and collecting the votes is a strange haphazard affair. Maine's towns and cities have an entire week to hold their caucuses. Simply knowing the rules (which a lot of candidates often don't) can be enough to dominate the process and get you a victory. (That's pretty much Ron Paul's only hope.)

In short, a caucus is not really an election at all. This is a fact that even Iowans reluctantly admit. Because they are rarely as close as Iowa was this year, and there are plenty of other states out there to worry about, everyone just tends to look the other way. And they probably will again this week, even if there are calls to change the set up. The networks will declare a winner and candidates will still give victory speeches (probably before the votes are even counted) and then we'll move on to the next state.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.